Thursday, February 28, 2013


Ivaan's wristwatch
For my birthday in 1990, I bought myself a wristwatch.  It was a men's watch, and I'd been coveting it for quite a while.  It looked a lot like this watch. Recently, I found myself remembering the very odd story of that watch.  I'd always worn watches with a winding knob, and would have preferred to have bought a winder, but as luck would have it, the watch I wanted was battery operated.  So I bought it for myself.  I recently found a birthday card Ivaan had made for me that year, on which he had written, "Happy Birthday (an affectionate name) On This Very Tough Year".  That's why I remember what a challenging year it was.

Keeping track of time was never one of Ivaan's strengths.  Although I tried not to make a big deal out of it, I felt that it was likely this would be the dealbreaker in our relationship. Ivaan hated wearing a watch.  Thirty years earlier, he'd been given a watch as a 16th birthday present by his father. It had an expandable metal band which caught the hairs on the back of his wrist and he had a real grudge against that watch.   As a result, he never wore a watch.

Soon after he saw my new wristwatch, he asked if he could try it on.  He simply liked the look of it.  It had a black leather strap, had Roman numerals, and it was easy to read.  Ivaan tried it on, admired it, and then gave it back.  A year later, on my birthday, I took it back to the store and asked them to check the battery.  It was still fully charged.  They suggested I return the following year.  In 1992 I returned on my birthday.  Again the watchmaker said the battery was still perfectly good.  He told me to come back next year.  It seemed I was destined to spend part of each birthday at the watchmaker's. That night, Ivaan asked if he could borrow my watch to wear the next day, and I agreed.

Ivaan wore the watch the next day, but by the end of the day he complained that the battery had died.  This was odd, because the watchmaker had said the battery was fully charged.  So I took the watch in, replaced the  battery, and Ivaan asked if he could wear the watch for another day.  I agreed. Within a couple of days, the new battery had died too.  We changed it again, but every time Ivaan wore the watch, the battery would die almost immediately. But a miracle had happened: Ivaan had stopped being late.  As a matter of fact, if anything, he had become obsessively punctual. The worst was when we were going to the airport.  He wanted to be there three hours before the plane was scheduled to depart. No matter where we were going - Europe, the Caribbean or even Sault Ste. Marie - Ivaan would rather sit in the departure lounge for three hours than risk being late.

I bought two almost identical watches for Ivaan a few years before he died.  His "everyday" watch had numbers, and his "formal" one (the one in the photo above) had Roman numerals.  He loved those watches. I don't think it was wearing a watch that made Ivaan start paying attention to time.  I think it was something he wanted to change in himself, but it helped to have a good-looking watch to use as an excuse.

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